Russian Ghost Tale

A remote Russian farm is the setting for Spanish filmmaker Nacho Cerdà’s intriguing The Abandoned. Part of the original line-up for After Dark’s Horrorfest film festival back in 2006, its uneasy terror and taut suspense flow from a creative screenplay brimming with horrifying concepts while featuring great production values for a movie filmed in Eastern Europe. A brilliantly realized gem of creepy chills and spooky thrills perfect for a lonely theater night.

The European cast includes Anastasia Hille, Karel Roden, Valentin Ganev, Paraskeva Djukelova, and Carlos Reig-Plaza. Stars Anastasia Hille and Karel Roden play the two primary characters, American movie producer Marie Jones and the mysterious Nikolai. Cerdà’s moody direction and the movie’s fantastic production values sustain an eerie screenplay that enjoys dabbling with all sorts of haunted house tropes.

There’s no doubt in my mind Cerdà had ABC’s Lost television series in mind when crafting The Abandoned

Orphaned forty years ago as a baby in Russia, American Marie Jones returns back to her homeland when she inherits her mother’s rural farm. Long abandoned, the desolate property sits isolated on a small island with a dilapidated farmhouse. Seeking answers long buried about her background, she’s startled there to meet a man claiming to be her long lost twin brother. The foreboding home hides horrifying secrets and lurking terrors meant for them.

The deepening mystery and unearthly atmosphere slickly draws audiences into Marie’s plight. The screenplay is stuffed with haunted house elements in a fun, creative way – doppelgangers, time loops, ghosts, surreal frights, and more. There’s no doubt in my mind Cerdà had ABC’s Lost television series in mind when crafting The Abandoned. He took several popular tricks from Lost’s storytelling and blended them together for a stark, deeply satisfying horror film.

There’s just something absolutely frightening in The Abandoned that keeps audiences nervous and afraid throughout its running time. Maybe it’s how the story keeps you guessing for answers while scaring you senseless. The R-rated set pieces and effective VFX are first-rate, amazingly capable for a low-budget indie hailing from Europe.

About the only failing I had with the film is Marie’s hostile edge. She’s not a particularly sympathetic character. Some of Marie’s actions in the first two acts make her fairly unlikable. It’s not a fatal flaw but undercuts more dramatic developments from the thrilling final act.

The Abandoned was considered by many to be the clear winner in the original After Dark’s Horrorfest lineup and I would agree with that assessment. The crazy thrill-ride and spooky frights make for an entertaining descent into sheer terror.

Video

The 2006 production hits Blu-ray in a faithful 2.35:1 presentation from Unearthed Films reflecting the gloomy cinematography and somewhat muted color palette. The Abandoned runs 99 minutes on a BD-50, encoded in AVC with a hint of banding in the rougher effect sequences. An early movie made in the digital intermediate era, this is relatively crisp 1080p video tinted for a dark and imposing aesthetic.

The Abandoned’s picture quality isn’t quite eye candy material but the sharp video with pleasing depth offers crisp definition well-suited for Blu-ray. Unearthed Films has done nice work translating its grittier filmmaking for Blu-ray with a proper HD transfer free of unnecessary processing. The elements are in fantastic condition, free of age and debris.

Audio

Get ready for a crunchy surround mix laced with haunting effects and directional cues in The Abandoned’s immersive sound landscape. The 5.1 DTS-HD MA audio is often great with the jump scares and underlying tension. Atmospheric and often intense, the soundstage envelops the listener with spooky ambient noises.

Bass is firm, punctuating the action. Dialogue is cleanly intelligible, even if some of it is in Russian. Dynamics are solid with excellent fidelity for the haunting musical score performed by the Moscow Symphony Orchestra.

Extras

Optional English SDH, English and Spanish subtitles play in a white font, always inside the scope presentation. A secondary 2.0 PCM soundtrack in stereo is included.

The Abandoned makes its North American Blu-ray debut courtesy of Unearthed Films. Arriving with a slipcover, the BD is coded for Region A. A German label issued a Region B-locked disc back in 2011.

Lionsgate originally issued The Abandoned on DVD in the States with virtually no extra features. Unearthed Films puts together several new bonus features, including interviews with director Nacho Cerdà and both screenwriters. A handful of archival featurettes are dug up as well for the package.

Zoë Rose Smith Interviews Nacho Cerdà (49:58 in SD) – The Spanish director delves into his background and the movie’s production history.

Zoë Rose Smith Interviews Richard Stanley (44:56 in SD) – The second screenwriter on the project explains how much was changed and added between the original screenplay.

Zoë Rose Smith Interviews Karim Hussain (51:32 in SD) – The original writer discusses working with his friend Nacho Cerdà on this film.

The Making of The Abandoned Featurette (13:00 in SD, Spanish with English subtitles)

In the Den of The Abandoned Featurette (30:00 in SD; Spanish with English subtitles)

‘Nacho Cerda: The Trial of Death’ Featurette (27:46 in SD)

‘The Little Secrets of Nacho Cerda’ Featurette (13:49 in SD)

When Buck Meets Cerda: A Dialogue Between Friends (14:11 in SD) – A conversation between actor Douglas Buck and director Nacho Cerdà.

Alternative Cuts (12:06 in SD)

Alternate Ending (11:00 in SD)

Deleted & Extended Scenes (06:00 in SD) – 4 scenes

Outtakes (10:27 in SD)

Promo Gallery (09:33 in HD) – Production Stills and Promotional Art

Storyboard Collection (11:02 in HD) – Full storyboards for the film in Spanish

English Trailer (02:26 in HD)

French Trailer (01:56 in SD)

English Version of French Trailer (01:56 in SD)

Full disclosure: This Blu-ray was provided by the label for review. This has not materially affected DoBlu’s editorial process. For information on how we handle all review material, please visit DoBlu’s about us page.

The Abandoned
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
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Nightmarish Euro tingler from After Dark’s Horrorfest movie festival imaginatively realized with a hauntingly executed ghost story

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 36 full resolution, uncompressed HD screen shots ripped directly from the Blu-ray:


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